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Shinsekai Yori & the Impossibility of Coexistence

[1]

Squealer

2,528 words

Reviewing anime for a White Nationalist site can be hard, for the want of good subject matter. There are infinite complaints that can be made against mainstream anime that reflects Western memes. In search of content, I trekked across multiple Discord servers and subjected myself to many a time-sucking waste of eyeball-occupation; including but not limited to the predictable Zankyou no Terror (nationalists are Nazis who experiment on kids!), the borrifying original 1989 Appleseed movie, and the frankly bizarre and offensively liberal Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise, a 1987 release from Gainax, the studio that later produced Neon Genesis Evangelion.

I could spend an entire review griping about this one movie alone as it showcases a man’s descent into self-abasement, spurred on by the sight of homeless communists protesting the space program he is part of — protests that are of course a parallel to real life negroes protesting at rocket launches that NASA funding wasn’t going towards gibsmedats.  The animation is gorgeous, but the story centers upon an apathetic pilots struggle to work up the conviction to take his job as a potential astronaut seriously. The only worthwhile line and voice of sanity in the whole thing is from the visionary behind the fledging Space Program, who remarks that “War is not a product of civilization, it is necessary for it.” Eventually, an annoying thot and her bratty offspring ensare him into the church of snowflakery, and the movie ends with him praying in space for a borderless world and an end to war. What a cuck. This total letdown was a bitter pill after Shinji Ikari’s self-acceptance and realization, so I had to fight myself to not rip the DVD player out of its placement and launch it through the nearest window.

I needed an anime for Counter-Currents, something punchy, something new. Imagine then my relief at an anime that not only applauds ethnonationalism, but boldy makes the case that life is a contest for group survival, and that the borders-free fantasy world of Lennon, Eurocrats, Jewish interests, and Space Force Mayonnaise‘s central character is impossible. That anime is Shinsekai Yori: From the New World, a coming-of-age fable intertwined with an interspecies war.

A novel adaptation (I haven’t read the novel), Shinsekai Yori follows a young girl in a strange but seemingly idyllic postapocalyptia. A shocking opening montage of mass murder, global warfare, and pandemics cuts suddenly to her greeny, benign world. Children are going to school and are being taught to manipulate objects with their inherent psychokinetic abilities, and falling behind seems to be a very bad thing their parents are deathly afraid of. The village is sparsely populated, but lovingly maintained, and no one seems brave or interested enough to venture beyond the Psychic / Spiritual Barrier line that surrounds their isolated town.

The animation has high production values, and the soundtrack is melodious and immersive. The world of Shinsekai Yori is pretty and described through lots of panning landscape shots. The camera steadily tracks characters running,  flying, motor-boating, and wandering through each setting and the story settles into a rhythm of suspicion, discovery, conflict and revelation, before taking a time-jump of years to the next pertinent part of the lead character’s life. The show has many memorable moments, spaces, and clever scene compositions.

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Group One searches a mountain pass for their missing friend

At its worst, the narrative sort of sags and becomes lost in its own intrigue, at its best, Shinsekai Yori describes a monumental, world-ending conflict, expressed and endured with quiet dignity. The English dub also has great voice acting, the female lead narrator and antagonist “Monster Rats” being superbly voiced, at no point breaking immersion and helping this fairly dialogue-heavy, intricate show be all the more crisp and comprehensible. The texture of the animation, soundtrack, and visual elements all lend itself to an otherworldly and mystical feel, and I came away from From the New World feeling refreshed, and like I could adopt the inner strength of Shinsekai Yori‘s lead for my own struggles, and wander back to that dreamy world for solitude and contemplation.

That is not to say the show is without flaws. Characters can be nondescript, and their visual design pared down by an easily spotted A = B = C fallacy. Minimal design is cartoony, and more cartoony is cute. Shinsekai Yori‘s central casting has an “if Ayn Rand wrote anime” feel about it in the third act. Time constraints sometimes devolve dialogue to the level where characters don’t express themselves but simply conflicting viewpoints. The front-on literalism of the camera, in hindsight, makes certain characters look like cardboard cutout standins for Ellsworth Toohey. Thankfully, this occurrence is rare, and through the bulk of the series the characters have emotional and motivational three-dimensionality.

SY‘s world is also somewhat barren and empty apart from essential plot agents. The development of the conflicting empires is strong, as is the visual design of the intriguing creatures that antagonize the leads, going from foe to friend, autonomous to object, and back again (Impure Cats! False Minoshiros! What wonderful names and designs). But regular flora and fauna make scarce appearances. There are “Tiger crabs,” but these are throwaway giant crabs used in a scene or two, unlike the fully-realized, emotionally in-depth giant crabs I wish to see in anime. Cardboard cutout world aside, there’s enough going on that SY‘s flaws are minor gripes. The real strength of the show is the anthropological elements of SY‘s main societies.

It is impossible to give analysis without spoiler and plot detail reveals, so stop reading here if these trigger you. After a baffling opening salvo of episodes, we learn through following the childhood experiences of Saki Watanabe, the female lead, some of the underlying mechanics of their mysterious world through her encounter with a False Minoshiro — a sort of Amazon Alexa of the future, a public library, a robot Pokémon, and font of knowledge. The False Minoshiro (it is delightful to me that a real “Minoshiro” is never shown, described, or otherwise mentioned) explains to the terrified schoolchildren of Group One that their world, hundreds of years into the future, is empty other than competing species — Humans with Psychokinetic abilities (or PK), and Monster Rats. The world and civilization of 2011 was lost permanently in a convergence of catastrophes as regular humans struggled to destroy and survive — these things are synonymous in the world of Shinsekai Yori — the emergence of a small minority of humans with PK, each of whom is monumentally powerful and able to manipulate the material world through sight and willpower alone.

In response to this, scientists engineered a new gene sequence into the psychokinetic population. Should they kill another human, the sight of that person dying will trigger in them a “death response” of their own, whereupon their own body will turn on them and begin to shut down.

The human society of Shinsekai Yori, descendents of this psychokinetic group and described as “Bonobos” by the pseudo-Minoshiro — endures this de-fanged existence and so has to ruthlessly police their own ingroup for any member in which the death response may not be effective. Hence, somewhat disturbingly, the disappearance and deaths of school bullies or children who don’t quite “fit in” at the claws of the Impure Cats, reared by the Education Committee to make sure that all the children turn out correct. Childhood romance is induced by another genetic feature designed into the last humans. Their response to extreme stress is a desire to mate.

Whilst the humans of SY are blessed and cursed by near uncontrollable power, their primary competitors and enemies are not. The Monster Rats live in colonies managed by the humans, and throughout the course of the series make many innovations. Like the “Badgers” in the Epic of Human Evolution [3], the Monster Rats may not be able to innovate technology of their own, but have captured their own Amazon Alexa and learnt the “knack” of it. The Monster Rats are branded with a mark of their colony owner and are permitted to make war on each other, provided they have forms signed in triplicate. At the beginning of the series, a lowly but Machiavellian member of the Robber Fly colony, Squealer, manipulates and deceives the children into using their powers for his advantage, under the guise of assisting them. Towards the end of the series, he progresses into direct confrontation with his opposite number, Kiroumaru, leader of the Giant Hornets colony.

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General Kiroumaru and the Giant Hornets

These characters describe a perfect three-way conflict of natures. Squealer, through deceit, cunning, duplicity, and manipulation, ends up leading the Robber Fly colony, which at start numbered barely a few hundred but towards the end is able to declare a complete interspecies war on the dwindling humans. The PK humans are burdened with catastrophic internal problems, and their status as natural aristocracy given their immense power is threatened by the sheer weight of numbers of the mischievous Monster Rats. And Kiroumaru, an outsider but a straight-talker with a true warrior spirit, is separate from both parties and wishes to perpetuate his own offspring and civilization.

For those heads spinning, bear with me. Squealer and the Monster Rats wish to undermine humanity and destroy us. He leads his colony of sentient rats through industrialization and to a democratic age — imprisoning their own egg laying queen — “Should not all intelligent individuals be given equal rights? That is what I read in the books of the gods. It is the core principle of democracy.” The PK humans have lived unthreatened for too long and believe themselves invulnerable. Although they think they are granting the Monster Rats “complete autonomy” and freedom to live as their own species, the simple imbalance of power and management of one side by the other by psychokinetic pest control leads to loathing and eventual revolt. Upon his entrapment, he remarks that he started a revolt against the humans, leading to mass slaughter of Monster Rats, not just for his colony but “for all my kind. Only victory has meaning. Had we won, all our sacrifices would have been worth it.”

Wise words indeed. Squealer, like the lesser races he is a caution against, uses egalitarianism as a ploy. He insists that he and the Monster Rats are human, and deserving of equal rights and respect. But this is merely a ploy to “end the tyranny” of human rule — and to destroy or subjugate the natural aristocracy entirely, as the mere presence of the beautiful is an affront to the ugly, and a reminder of lower status in the contest of life. Kiroumaru, on the other hand, accepts human rule as fait accompli, and is in Squealers eyes a “relic.” This noble counterweight offers a more clear-cut explanation. In words I could not believe were set to soothing yet melancholy music, Kiroumau explains that he would destroy humanity “if we were certain we could win, then yes, perhaps. Before you come to any conclusions about my people, I want you to know that we do not hate your kind, nor do we have any delusions of grandeur. All that we wish is that our colony would continue to grow and prosper.”

This was as moving to me as was intended – a frank admission that yes, we may all be “human,” to a degree, but we can never exist in anything other than a contest to best the other. To tear down borders is to die, to invite the invader — who may be the highest born of Monster Rats and yet cannot ever belong to us or become one of us.

If there is any love we can have for those who are radically unlike us, it is the love for the opportunity to better ourselves through testing ourselves against what we are not. Just as Shinji and Asuka, Ledger’s Joker and Bale’s Batman are equivalent opposites who need and complete each other, Kiroumaru and Squealer — both monster rats — define themselves against each other and bring out each others better qualities. The two least human characters end up displaying the noble traits. Squealer endures unimaginable pain and degradation when he stakes his future on leading the Monster Rats to final victory and, for the sake of the plot’s happy ending, loses, and Kiroumaru dies a warrior’s death in service of defending the humans against that, as a plea for his colony’s survival.

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Saki and the Chair of the Ethics Committee

But even this balance of definition and co-dependence requires the mutual appreciation that comes with being the same species or of the same type. Squealer, the underhanded alien, does not rely on humanity for definition — he simply must usurp and destroy in order to replace humanity with a whole different species and competing civilization. It is a struggle to see which race will emerge victorious, and which will be eradicated. After he is sentenced, near the final credits, we see a museum where models of Squealer’s armed Monster Rats are on display — strongly implying that he is the last of his race have been completely destroyed.

In the end, Squealer turns out to be right. The sentient Monster Rats (and they really are, metaphorically, monstrous rats) turn out to be, to Saki’s shock, the descendants of human being that have been genetically altered by the PK bonobos so that the PKs can kill them without dying themselves. They have been dehumanized so that they can be killed without pang of conscience. So two branches of humanity became differentiated enough that their destiny could never again be amalgamated without resentment and ceaseless bloodshed. Saki is horrified that she has killed “humans, hundreds of them,” and says they should all suffer the death of shame. But her protector and future husband Satoru (his earlier homosexual bonobo status discarded with maturity) retorts, “At this point, they’re not humans anymore. Can you really see them as one of us?”

Shinsekai Yori, in full, is a wonderful work of science fiction and a gripping mystery horror. The best sci-fi stories tell timeless truths but stand apart from reality, inventing instead of borrowing, and the best virtues and lessons are able to be drawn from them without direct comparison. The show builds the human and not-so-human motivations on a bedrock of biological needs and impulses, and flatly refutes the idea that anyone can be anything more than or anything different from what they are. And yet, the cast of Shinsekai Yori is full of heroes, villains, charlatans, and even child killers — all roles that conflate, overlap, and merge together as the different societies struggle to deal with their own inherent flaws and characteristics. The series hews to the morality of survival, and that “only victory has meaning” and yet shows the victors as savage and barbaric.

The show ends with Saki and Satoru — now husband and wife and the last surviving members of Group One — playing with Impure Cat kittens. Saki is heavily pregnant. Their survival is precarious, yet they are optimistic. Perhaps if whites adopted the rooted sincerity of those From the New World, our hope for the future would burn brighter too.